Top 10 Lifts for Lacrosse Players...
Initially, I was planning to do some more NLL expansion articles; however, when I checked on my website analytics, I noticed the article “Top Ten Mistakes High School Players Make” had over 8,000 views. This convinced me to change up my content for a bit. I figure with high school lacrosse winding down (about a month and a half remaining) there are already kids focusing on how to improve for next season. This is especially true for players looking for an edge in summer ball. Or for players who are disappointed with their playing time and looking for ways to force themselves onto the field. Whether you are or aren’t one of these players, you can always focus on building physical strength to support taking your game to the next level. That is the purpose of this article.
If curious about my exercise background, read on: I am a former ACE certified personal trainer and have worked with the Air Force Academy Strength and Conditioning staff while working with the lacrosse team. I have used all these lifts and they have greatly benefitted me for my own playing career. Having said that, if you want lifts that will improve your play, read on!
The Bench Press
It’s a classic. And yes, you should be doing it. Besides lacrosse benefits, plenty of high school boys that lift will gauge your lifting status by how much you bench. Put the work in and shut them down when you say you bench 225 for reps.
In all seriousness, benching is extremely beneficial for lacrosse players. This is particularly true if you are a defenseman. When benching, you are working your chest (duh), shoulders, triceps, and core. You are building muscles using a push motion. When you are playing defense on a guy, you will be pushing them; therefore, it’s beneficial to work the muscles that will give you a stronger push. I’ve found this to work to my advantage when covering a guy on GLE. A lot of the work you do is with your legs, but I find it helps to throw guys off balance with a large shove too.
With benching, you can choose to limit your reps and add more weight, or do high reps with less weight. With lower reps and high weight, you will be training for power and explosion. With the latter, you will be building more lean muscle. Personally, I switch it up. I’ve been doing higher reps lately and have become a lot trimmer. The choice is yours, but if you are a newbie to lifting, I would recommend doing higher reps with low weight first. Doing this will build a foundation of lean muscle. No offense, but you won’t have much power in your chest if you can only max bench 135. Until you can warm up with 135 for ten reps, I’d say to stick with high reps, low weight.
I mentioned benching works your triceps, and the triceps press complements this. Not much to say on this lift, but I would recommend doing higher reps until you can press a 50-pound dumbbell 10 times. For this lift, all you do is sit on a chair, pick up a dumbbell and hold it above your head with your arms straight, then slowly lower the weight until your elbows are bending less than 90 degrees. Then push the weight back up to the starting position.
Like bench, this is a push motion that will help in pushing guys out on groundballs. Also, if you do triceps, you have to do biceps at some point. It’s not good for your arms to only work triceps and never train biceps or vice versa. I’m not including bicep work on this list, but you need to do it if you work triceps!
Squats are a staple of lifting. Squats are as classic as hotdogs at baseball games. You must do your squats! Squats practically work your entire lower body. But the most worked areas are hamstrings, quads, and a little bit of core. Like the other workouts, you can do squats for power, where you do low reps and super high weight, or high reps and low weight. Personally, I would do higher reps until you can easily rep out 135 for 4 sets of 10 (or something like that). Doing higher reps will build a strong foundation of lean muscle in your legs. This may help your legs from fatiguing when running as well.
A warning on the high weight, low repetition squats: I’ve done these for years and found running with super heavy legs is absolute torture. Generally, I do not get winded when running, but I get tired from the constant pounding on my legs (which are very large). With this tradeoff in mind, I’ve noticed doing heavy weight on squats helps me explode off the line in faceoffs and outrace an opponent for a groundball. It also helps with not getting shoved around by a defenseman or attackman when matched up against them. I rarely get pushed out of the way due to leg strength.
My final advice on squats is to only focus on getting your knees to 90 degrees before pushing up with the weight. You’ll have guys tell you to put your butt on the ground for the rep to count, and this isn’t true at all. You are getting the proper work by only going to 90 degrees. Also, try to hold the weight at 90 degrees for a second before going up. I recommend this because a lot of guys allow their momentum to push the weight back up. I’m not above doing this myself when tired, but watch out for this! To get the most out of your squats, you don’t want to cheat yourself by using momentum. You only hurt yourself!
Technically, these are two workouts, but they complement each other. Kind of like working both biceps and triceps! These two exercises are some of the most important. They are also extremely neglected by young athletes. You know those machines that some guys make fun of as the “birth giving muscle machines”? Well, those are the machines you need to go on.
The hip abduction machine works your outer hips, while the hip adduction machine works your inner thighs/hips (right where your privates are). Working these muscles is crucial to having elite balance. You will also be better at making strong cuts and exploding laterally.
For reps, I would recommend 4 sets of 10 repetitions. Try to do a 3 count while doing the reps. A three count is when you count to three slowly while pushing the weight and counting to three while returning the weight back to its starting place.
Don’t feel weird about using these machines! In fact, a lot of cute girls use them as well; therefore, you can always ask her if y’all can switch machines when done (then get her number 😉).
Power cleans are tough at first, but the benefits are too great to ignore. Power cleans build explosive power. This will translate to exploding towards a guy while sliding, or beating your guy off the faceoff wing. Football players do cleans to help with hitting power.
I would recommend watching some YouTube videos to get the form down, but you are mainly working your hamstrings while doing power cleans. A power clean is when you leave the barbell on the ground, get down like you’re about to deadlift, and explode up, throwing the weight to your shoulders (you’ll now be holding it as if you were going to front squat). Some tips: you do not use your arms for this. You should not be throwing your back into it either. If you are pulling the weight up with your arms, or your lower back hurts from all the reps, you are doing it wrong!
Lastly, power cleans are not something you do for high reps. Do something like 4 sets of 3 repetitions with you dropping the bar every time you do one rep. You will feel like a god when you can do these for 225!
I won’t lie, I absolutely hate doing deadlifts. That doesn’t mean they aren’t beneficial though. Deadlifts put a lot of stress on your hamstrings. You will also be working your lower back and core. Like cleans, deadlifts aren’t something you do for lots of reps. I would recommend a routine of 5 sets of 3 repetitions. Deadlifts will help with explosive power and being able to bully guys on the field (it will be hard for them to shove you out of position). If you are an attackman, they will help you with digging into a defenseman and slowly backing him towards the net (where you can get an easy goal).
Woodcutters are a core exercise that primarily focuses on your obliques. This exercise is great for lacrosse players because you perform this motion while shooting. You twist your core towards the net. Performing woodcutters will give you a stronger shot.
This is another exercise you may need to check out on YouTube (linked video does it a little different than me), but here’s what you do. First, snag a resistance machine that allows you to adjust the height of the resistance rope. Have a handle that you’d use for standing chest flies. You can adjust the height to be high, middle, or low. Doing woodcutters from different heights will work different areas of your abs. To continue, say you have the height at medium, hold your arms out straight and back up to where there is no slack on the handle. Then, without using your arms and keeping them straight, use your core to twist your body to the right. Keep your feet planted (they should not be moving). Do this to the right 8 times and then do the same thing but twisting to the left 8 times. Then repeat for a number of sets. You can then repeat this routine with the handle up high or low. You can make the weight as heavy or light as you want. If you need a starting point, I do all angles with 50 pounds resistance for 4 sets of 8 repetitions (per side) on my ab day; however, you could do 2 sets of each on leg day (just an example).
Sit ups don’t need much explanation. You need a strong core for any sport. While woodcutters help with shooting, they also help with balance. Sit ups are the easiest exercise in this list. You don’t even need a gym membership to do them. Just lay down on the floor and place your feet under the couch bottom. Sit ups will strengthen your abdominus. Doing sit ups routinely will improve your balance. It will be harder for opponents to knock you down. You see those NFL players that get shoved really hard, stumble, but keep their balance? They don’t fall on their butts because they have strong cores. You need to be like that!
Like hip adduction/abduction, the lower back is often neglected by young athletes. Here’s the thing, if you work your core, you HAVE to work your lower back. If you have a strong core but weak lower back, it’s like having a strong roof but terrible walls. It’s like working biceps but not triceps. They complement each other; therefore, you must work both! Not working lower back and doing a lot of abdomen work will lead to lower back pain (it’s happened to me too).
An easy lower back extension exercise you can do is the following: grab a plate (25, 35, 45 lbs, etc.) and go to the gym equipment that holds your legs in place, but allows you to move your torso up and down. Then, when in place, grab the plate and hold it to your chest. Start with your body facing down, use your lower back to pull yourself in the air, then lower yourself back down. Do this slowly. Repeat this 10 times for 3 to 4 sets. There! You just worked your lower back and your body loves you.
By performing these 10 lifts, you will become a better lacrosse player. It also makes you stand out as a player. I’ve had lots of coaches complement me on my strength; however, I’m not saying you need to be built like a tank. You just want to be strong (at a minimum).
Bear Bryant, one of the greatest football coaches of all time, told his players that an A rated player could be beat by a C rated player if the C player puts more work in than the A player. This is the same for you. If you’re reading this and you’re not where you want to be lacrosse wise, doing these lifts will give you an edge.
Here’s an example: your coach is looking for the third starter on defense. He’s comparing you with one other guy. This summer, you did these lifts and added ten pounds of muscle (while doing wall ball, running, etc. Lifting doesn’t matter if you don’t do the whole package). The other guy, who naturally has better stick skills, didn’t put in that extra work. He played Fortnite and vaped while occasionally picking up a stick.
Come practice, you both face the best attackmen on the team; however, you don’t get beat and can shove guys around. The muscle you added allows you to win those gritty groundball battles and beat attackmen that attempt to beat you with brute force. The other guy gets pushed around and doesn’t have the extra muscle that allows him to win those gritty groundball battles. The coach sees this and makes you the third starter. By giving yourself an edge, you are now starting. Sure, the other guy has better stick skills, but yours are still good and you are a more complete player.
Hopefully, you now understand how these lifts (or other lifts) can help give you another advantage on the field. If a skinny guy has better stick skills, don’t compete against his strengths. Compete against his weaknesses. If you have amazing stick skills and do these lifts, even better. You will be that much closer to being a complete player. One thing on these lifts. Do not do them all in the same workout. These lifts are meant to be done throughout several workouts. For example, the leg lifts you do one day and the chest workouts another. You also cannot get by on only doing these exercises. This list serves as a starting point. Thank you for reading and see you at the gym!
Did you like this list? Was it helpful? Do you disagree that lifting will help you become a better lacrosse player? Let me know! To all the new subscribers, thank you for becoming a part of the Logical Lacrosse family! If you are curious to why I don’t post articles every day, it generally means I have posted something on my social media accounts instead. Some days, I do YouTube highlight videos over articles. To always know what I’m up to, shoot me a follow on Instagram (logical_lacrosse) and Twitter (Logical_Lacrosse). Thank you and hope you enjoyed!